Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Source of Life's Savor.

The point I attempt to make in this post is this: Wellbeing, peace, joy, wholeness, love, and gratitude, are only connected to mortality (money, career, material possessions, education, any type of status other than Child of God, friends, family situations, etc.) as we allow them to be, and until we recognize their true, immortal source, and attach them there. The immortal source of our wellbeing is God, our father, and through the atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ we have the opportunity to overcome mortality. Knowing and trusting the immortal source of our ever-enduring worth while in mortality can be a Heaven on Earth.

The Source of Life’s Savor.

I currently have $47 in my checking account and zero in my savings account. By the end of this week I will have less in my checking account. I have just under $20,000 of debt, and I work as a merchant application underwriter. I am 35 years old, and will be 36 in two months.

As I drove home from work tonight (9-8-15), the gas light came on in my car. I stopped at the gas station to do as I have done over the past few months, to put $20 worth of gas in my car, making sure I didn’t spend it all in one place. As long as my car has gas, I can keep going to work. I bought some groceries yesterday, $33 worth at Wal-Mart. I came home, and with the groceries I made some homemade guacamole, and baked an ear of corn to make Elote. As I was cutting the green onions for the guacamole, I felt somewhat as I imagine the widow of Zarepath felt, but on a lesser degree. If you remember, she gathered sticks to make a meal with the last of her oil and flour, for her and her son to eat, then die. I know that that meal will not be my last (I hope not anyway), but I felt like I was using part of the last that I had, as there is not money for more until next week. We recall that the prophet Elijah asked her to make a cake for him first, then for her son and herself. If she did this, the jar of flour would not fail, neither would the jug of oil run dry until the Lord sends rain again upon the land. Again, as I continued to cut the green onions, I began to feel a gratitude that was not familiar, a gratitude for the fact that this meal was going to be just as delicious as it had always been. Gratitude that even though I had used some of the last of my current resources to purchase the ingredients, and that my financial situation is what it is right now, the goodness and the savor of this meal would not be diminished.

Over the course of my life when financial resources have been limited, I would allow that circumstance to affect all areas of my life in a negative way; I would allow it to “change the savor” of my life, and life wasn’t as good. I would worry, worry, worry; I would feel physically ill. These rough financial situations would disturb my spiritual, emotional, mental, and social wellbeing, as well as physically as I have mentioned. I would decrease my social interaction because my mind was completely occupied with the stress of the situation, and I wasn’t myself. I felt like I was less; less than I should be, less than I had previously been, less than others (and I) expected. I felt like a failure, and unworthy to be around people. My entire wellbeing was dependent on having money, and when the money I had went below what I thought was acceptable for myself, my wellbeing went down with it. My wellbeing was attached, and dependent on the amount of money I had. It doesn’t help that I have been so determined to change my financial situation, that I have made several decisions to invest in this opportunity, and that opportunity; which only perpetuated more of the same. That is another story. Over the course of the past 2 ½ years I have changed my source of wellbeing, and it was significantly noticeable tonight. As I continued to prepare dinner, and continued consciously be grateful for it, I recognized also that felt peaceful; I wasn’t stressed, nor was my worth was tied to my financial situation. I was whole; I was loved; my worth had not lessened; and life still tasted good. I knew that God loved me just the same, and that I loved me just the same. Two years ago when I started taking these steps to improve, I knew that there would be sacrifices and difficult times. What I have learned, and specifically recognized tonight, is that what I am sacrificing are all of the negatives I experienced previously: the fear, the stress, the attachment of my wellbeing on every level to my finances; I am separate from my finances. Money is an object, has no feelings, nor is not alive. It cannot determine, nor control, nor have any say in my wellbeing unless I give it that power. I no longer give it that power; it has been given to God, as has my fear, and the attachment of my wellbeing to my financial situation. In place of what I have “sacrificed”, God has offered peace, love, wholeness; and I trust that the jug of oil will last, and the jar of flour, remain.

I am whole, independent of anything, through the atonement of my Savior Jesus Christ, and my offering up to Him of fear…that is all it was, fear. It is replaced with love, trust, and confidence in Him. He provides the way each and every day despite my imperfections; His ways are higher than mine, and I am so glad for that. It is beautiful and comforting at the same time that I am never left alone. He provides the way patiently as I learn, and as I stumble at times; even through the stumbling there is a way, there is always a way. I don’t have to go alone, for He is always with me, showing the way with a loving, strong arm which is ever reaching out to me. He is the way to lasting peace. He knows me, and I am learning who He is to me as we develop a personal relationship. I love Him, and I am grateful for the peace He offers in place of sacrificed fear. He lives; He must; He has to! In His name, Amen.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The love of God, and the Savior - Charity

The lesson today in gospel principles was on charity. There were great comments regarding charity, what it means, and the difficulty in gaining this attribute of Christ for ourselves. A comment was made suggesting that charity can be gained by acting out of love, care, and compassion for, and towards someone else, rather than feeling obligated to do so. If acting out of love, care, and compassion for someone else, then we will have desires and energy to serve those who could use the help we can offer. It is the idea of feeling compassion towards someone, recognizing that there IS something I CAN do to improve a situation, wanting to do so (out of that compassion), and acting accordingly, that allow charity to sprout within us. The conversation then went the route of putting others needs before our own. Then, it went the route of how much easier it is to love others than it is to love ourselves because we know ourselves better than anyone. We know our flaws, our weaknesses, our shortcomings, and our sins, so it’s easier to love others than it is to love ourselves. It was at this point in the discussion that I started to feel some dis-harmony with what was being said, and truths that I have learned for myself over the past couple years. I speak from my own experience, as there was a time I cared for, and served others more than I cared for, and took care of myself. Over the course of years, I was emptied. I was more than emptied. I reached a point where I was giving something that I did not have. I had not been taking care of myself mentally and emotionally while giving mental, and emotional support to others. I realized I could not continue to maintain certain relationships as they currently were, and be ok myself. My experience is not an example of what it means to put other’s needs before our own. Why had I not been taking care of myself? Because I cared about others more than I cared about myself, I didn’t know how to take care of myself. My life experience has shown that I care for the things/people I care about, and I wasn’t high on my own list. My more recent life experience shows that I am better able to care about others, and help others, when I have first taken care of myself. When I take care of myself, I have that which I can give to others, love, which in my experience, is the foundation on which charity is built. Even the definition of charity says so, being, the pure love of Christ. I believe that Christ acts out of his love for each of us in charitable ways we can describe as, merciful, gracious, patient, consistent, kind, caring, forgiving, gentle, compassionate, encouraging, understanding – ALL UNDERSTANDING, and infinitely present, to name a few. When I am taking care of myself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and socially, I can act out of love (charity), and present some of those same adjectives in my daily interaction with others, AND I can be those adjectives to myself because I am very high on my list these days.
How did I manage to move my name to “very high” on my list? When I realized that God’s love for me, and The Savior’s love for me were independent of anything, and UNCHANGING, my own view of myself changed. My love for myself was less than desirable, in fact, I didn’t know how to love myself, and somehow, I assumed that God’s love for me was similar to my love for me. I didn’t know how to let love in, from me or anybody really. God did, however, miraculously show me that His love is completely independent from how I feel about myself, as is my Savior’s love for me. Even how I was, in that very moment, God, and His son, loved me, and I could feel it! I felt it like I never had before. I thought, “If God loves me, and my Savior loves me, which I know they do because of the way I feel it, then why can’t I love and accept myself in a similar way? If they love me, then I can love me.” I had been holding myself up to a standard in order to “be” accepted by God, and good enough for Him to love me, hoping that someday it would be worth it, and that He would see that I AM good. Two things: 1. I don’t have to put a standard above what God does in order to “prove” that I am good enough, even for His love. He loves His children, period. He is our Father, and we are created in His image. He sent his Only Begotten Son to live, and die for us so we can live with Him (God) again. Is that not love!!! 2. Throughout the creation, God “saw that it was good.” It’s not until the last verse in Genesis 1, after the creation of man, that “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” God creates only “good things”, even, “very good” things, and people. We are each good enough for His love. He loves each of us independent of how we feel about ourselves. If you don’t love yourself, or think you are not good enough for God’s love, let go of it. Let go of ALL the reasons why you don’t love yourself, or why you think you are not good enough, and ask God to replace those reasons with His love. He already loves you; I don’t know that He can love you more than He already does.
When we let God’s love into our hearts and lives, and when we allow His love for us to define how we feel about ourselves, it is then that we can truly obtain charity, because God’s love is sustaining. It allows us to expand. It multiplies as we act from it, divides as we share it in charitable ways with those whom we interact, and it is ever increasing in its reach.
4 Challenges:
1.                   Believe that God loves you, because you already are “good”.
2.                   Let go of the reasons you don’t like, or love yourself, make a list.
3.                   Let God’s love fill the space where those reasons have been residing.

4.                   Find ways to be charitable to yourself (remember the adjectives).

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rocks into Diamonds

                                                                                                               January 18, 2015

There is a tale of a young man who passed by a wise old man. The old man asked the young man for his help, the young man hesitantly agreed. The wise old man gave the young man an empty bag, and told him to put rocks in it. The young man, not understanding the purpose of it, but finding it easier to obey than ask questions, found some rocks and put them in the bag. Upon returning the bag to the wise old man, he said to the young man, “that’s not enough, add more rocks.” The young man, grudgingly put more rocks in the bag. Again returning to the wise old man, he was told, “more rocks”. The young man put just a few more rocks in the 2/3 full bag before handing it to the wise old man for what he thought was the last time. The wise old man gave the bag back to the young man, “No, this is for you to carry until the end of the day.” After a few more words between the two men, the young man took the bag of rocks and carried if for the rest of the day. At the end of the day, he put the bag down, and pulled out a rock, wondering the point of it. To his surprise, a rock he did not pull out, but a diamond. He looked inside and found that each rock had turned into a diamond. The young-but now a little wiser-man was sad he hadn’t put more rocks in the bag, but glad that the wise old man had returned the bag twice to him for more rocks. Some experiences or situations in life seem like rocks, not worth much, and we’d rather not carry them around with us all day. They are too heavy to carry; we’d rather rid ourselves of them for good. If we ourselves rid ourselves of the rocks, we can’t have the diamonds at the end of the day. Throughout the day, it is the Savior’s atonement that slowly turns our rocks into diamonds. Application of the atonement brings change. It changes heavy rocks that we say aren’t worth carrying, into diamonds with such worth, we never want to let them go. Sometimes we have circumstances that are hard to carry. But it can be done with the help of God, and in the end, there are diamonds to show for the work we, and God have done, in carrying the rocks throughout the day. I want to share some diamonds I have found in my bag over the past couple years.
Hello friends! This is going to be quick (not quick), but informative, and hopefully helpful for someone. Maybe some of you already know, some of you may have ideas, and some of you may be surprised. The truth is, I am attracted to guys. I realized, accepted, and began to come to terms with this fact almost two years ago. My life has improved so much during this time. That may sound backwards, but it’s the truth. The first diamond I want to share is: I am good enough for God, His love, and His acceptance. For a long time I tried to prove that I was good enough for God, feeling that I was not good, and that I needed to overcome something that was inherently wrong with me, but that I could not put my finger on. I am good enough for God. I don’t have to try and be good enough anymore. There is good inherently in me. That does not mean that I don’t have to improve. It means that I am good enough to be called God’s. Diamond number two: I know God loves me, every part of me. I learned it because I felt it, and now I know it. Diamond number three: I accept myself. I am more accepting of myself, and I am easier on myself. For many years I was hard on myself for making mistakes, and doing the wrong things ever and over. I would mentally and emotionally tear myself down. I wasn’t good enough for myself, so there was absolutely no way I was good enough for God. I learned that that direction of acceptance is what was backwards. My acceptance of myself does not precede or define God’s acceptance of me. I learned that the opposite is actually true. God’s manifestation of His love, acceptance, grace, and mercy, can define how I see, and accept myself. I can define my own self-acceptance after God’s acceptance of me. God’s love will never falter, therefore, my love for, and acceptance of, myself need not falter. If I am good enough for God, then I am good enough for me, and anyone else. Diamond number 4: God loves YOU! After experiencing this great feeling of His love and acceptance in a way I never had before, I understood that I am no different than His other children, and that He must love each of you at least as much as He loves me. He loves you, I know it because I know He loves me!
When I accepted that this was a part of who I was, I very quickly recognized I didn’t know where to begin, to start dealing with it. I knew that aspects of my life would change by default, due to the new perspective. I told God that if this was real, which I knew it was, that I would give it to Him because I had no idea how to manage it.  I also quickly recognized that it was too big for me to handle with my current life experience. Again, I knew my life would change, and if I gave it to God, He would take care of me, and the best outcomes would be had. That very day, my life started to change for the better. It was like God literally took my life, and started making it better by putting key people, and opportunities right in front of me. I have learned a great deal about myself; how to take care of myself mentally and emotionally, how to say no, and when to say yes. I have learned, and am still learning how to communicate with people, and create and maintain mentally and emotionally healthy relationships. There is still lots to learn, and I am looking forward to that. Definitely, my life has improved a great deal in the past almost two years. Not to say that it has been all easy. Growth is hard at times, and I’ve experienced emotions to an extent that I hadn’t before. I’ve learned its ok to feel. I can feel angry, sad, scared, and even happiness and joy, and they can be expressed. Anger can be felt, and expressed in ways that are beneficial, and healing. I don’t hold my emotions inside like I used to, and that is healthy. I have also learned that it is ok to care what I look like. Let me rephrase that, it’s ok to look like I care what I look like. I always cared what I looked like, but I didn’t want to look like I cared, or didn’t want others to think that I cared. I know, it’s kind of messed up, but such was my life.
I share this “new” aspect of myself because I am not afraid of it, nor ashamed of it. It is part of who I am, and, I now know that I am acceptable to God, and I accept me. The truth is, I was always acceptable in God’s eyes, but not in my own. I share it also because accepting the attractions has been a catalyst in moving my life forward in positive ways like it has never moved before. The lessons I’ve learned as mentioned above are so valuable, and I wouldn’t trade them. I think there are potential catalysts (rocks) in all of our lives that can propel us forward if we allow them to. There are diamonds to be found in the bag of life’s experiences. Life can be hard. Yes, there are struggles, and hurt, and lots of other experiences along the way. There is also light, happiness, joy, family, friends, and even miracles. Under it all, is a love of God for each of His children. He loves us more than we can comprehend. I know God lives, and that He loves His children. It’s a very beautiful thing. If you don’t feel it yourself, let God be God to you personally. He will, in His time and way, manifest Himself, and His love to you. He has to me, and I am no different than you. My life isn’t where I want it to be, nor am I where I want to be. But I AM happy where I am, and where my life is going, and where I am going. I don’t know the destination, but I do know that I am on a path to creating a continually improved life, and becoming a better person, both of which because my relationship with God is improving, and that is enough to make progress in any area of my life that needs it.
Another reason I share, is because I feel that the knowledge I have gained through these experiences, not everyone has; I didn’t for most of my life. The knowledge I have gained, and the experiences I have had (diamonds I have found) are not just for me; I want people to know what I know. The way to share what I have learned is to be real, authentic, and unafraid to just be me. I am learning that as I come out of my shell, and just be me, I can help others without really trying, and that is beautiful. I don’t share this to seek attention, but to help anyone who may be having a hard time with situations in their lives. Life may not be how we want it, but there are basic things that if we have, life is better, even if the situations themselves don’t change. The first step is acceptance of situations as they are, “Yes, I am carrying this bag of rocks.” Then, recognizing what we CAN do to improve upon the situation, whether it be ways in which we can act to change the situation; changing our perspective or view of the situation;  finding the good that is there to be found in that situation; or learning from it. There is always something to be taken from any given situation, even if it is experience. It is possible to choose to not be the victim of our situations or circumstances.

I am inspired by people who are authentic, and unafraid to share themselves. I want to help myself, and others improve our lives. For me, it’s learning to be real, and allowing myself to be real while stepping outside of my norm. I have energy to be myself, I don’t have energy to be, or pretend to be someone else. I am happy to be me. I am actually excited to have shared some super valuable diamonds with you. Thank you for reading, God bless!